Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Truly Alive

Truly Alive

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. [HCSB]

Jesus spoke these words to Martha after her brother, Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days. She was questioning why this had to happen. Why did her brother have to die? What didn’t you do anything to stop it, Lord?

Those are questions that we all ask at some point in our life. Death was never part of God’s plan for us. Death is the result of sin entering into His perfect creation. Separation from Him was never part of His plan for us. That separation is only a result of the sin we have in our heart.

God did not intend for us to suffer and mourn and die and feel alone. God would have been perfectly justified, since we are the ones who caused this mess, to leave us to deal with it on our own. But He didn’t. God could run from situation to situation putting temporary band-aids on each problem, knowing full well the source of our troubles would still be left undealt with in our heart. But He didn’t. Instead, in a master stroke, He sent the one who could deal with the heart of the matter. The only one who could deal with our sin as well as the death and despair that it leads to.

With His words, Jesus was not only giving Martha promise for a future hope, but comfort in a present reality. When you trust in Jesus you have already moved from death to life. When you trust in Him, no matter what else may happen, you are truly alive now and forevermore. Shortly after speaking these words, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Not longer after, He Himself would be raised from the dead and all of our questions, all of our doubts, all of our worries would find their ultimate answer in Christ and in Christ alone.

To discover more, visit Oak Grove Baptist Church

Friday, March 2, 2018

A Life Of Fellowship

A Life Of Fellowship

John 10:10 A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance. [HCSB]

An abundant life is not a life spent in isolation. It is not a life of loneliness it is a life of friendship and fellowship. Of undertaking this journey together. Fellowship, the relationships we form within the church and how we spend time with one another, is yet another tool God uses to transform us and reach the world. In order to have a strong fellowship with one another within the church we must be willing to let go of a few preferences, be willing to focus on Jesus, and be willing to work with one another.

This doesn’t mean we have to do everything the same or enjoy the same things. In fact it means that, within the boundaries of Christ’s love and the scriptures truth, we have room for a diverse group of individuals and fellowships within the church. All of which are united by their desire to know Christ more each and every day.

So what is this fellowship Christ was wanting for us?
FELLOWSHIP: Bond of common purpose and devotion that binds Christians to one another and to Christ. ~ Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary
It is that last phrase, to Christ, that is key to understanding fellowship and is what separates fellowship from simple friendship. Yes, you should be friends with your fellow believers as well and yes it is fine to have friendships, within reason, outside the church. But fellowship goes even deeper than friendship.

Fellowship, even more than mere friendship, goes beyond Good times. Look at how the word fellowship is used in the New Testament and you see it more likely to describe shared suffering as shared blessings. Fellowship is there both to celebrate the good and help shoulder the bad.

You can go to the ball game and have a hot dog with both your friend and your brother in Christ but you can confess your weaknesses, receive counsel, accountability and prayer from only your brother.

An old story is told about a preacher and a deacon went on a hiking trip together and after a long day of walking they made camp, ate a good meal and crawled into their tent to get some sleep. In the middle of the night the deacon wakes the preacher, points up to the sky and asks “What do you see?”

The preacher looks up and says “I see billions of beautiful stars, each placed perfectly in the sky.”

The deacon then asks “and what does that tell you?”

The preacher responds “It tells me that we serve a mighty God who has, in this vast universe, lovingly placed us at the perfect place to enjoy His wonderful creation.” Then he turned to the deacon and asked, what does it tell you?

The deacon responded “That someone has stolen our tent!”

It is good to have friends who are focused on the right things! We need that balance between the practical and the theological. Unfortunately we often let our fellowship focus first on the practical - the fun, the food, the physical needs - and throw in the theological as an afterthought or not at all. What a wasted opportunity!
"I have given them the glory You have given Me. May they be one as We are one." ~ John 17:22
In John 17:22, Jesus prays that we will be one, but let's not stop there, we must finish reading the sentence! He says that we be one as He and the Father are one. Our fellowship must be focused on Him first, each other second. That does not mean that every fellowship must be a worship service or a bible study. It does mean that every action we take together must be done in a way that encourages and strengthens one another. It is through our fellowship that we help one another with our burdens, celebrate with one another in our triumphs and gently but constantly point one another closer to Christ. That is the focus of our fellowship - no matter what activities our fellowship takes - to bring one another closer to Christ. In that way it is an active form of discipleship in our daily life.

We spoke last week about how our journey has a destination - heaven and that in many ways this life is a preparation for that homeland. Likewise our fellowship here is preparation for our eternal fellowship there. Both our fellowship with God and with each other.

We are going to spend eternity serving, praising and having fellowship together. Why not prepare for that now?

To discover more, visit Oak Grove Baptist Church

Monday, February 19, 2018

Life As A Journey

Life As A journey

1st Peter 1:17 And if you address as Father the One who judges impartially based on each one’s work, you are to conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your temporary residence. 18 For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. [HCSB]

The Apostle Peter wrote this first letter that bears his name to the Christians living in what is now Turkey. They were not living in the Holy Land. They were not living within easy reach of the church of Jerusalem or the large contingent of Christians in Rome. Many may have been refugees driven out by the hostility that was beginning to grow around them. They were isolated, scattered and as such would face the blunt of the coming persecution on their own.

In many ways they were a reflection of the Christian life we live today.

We too are temporary residents of this world, simply passing through on our journey home. However that does not mean that this journey is pointless or merely something to get through before we get home.  It is in fact a journey that is designed to draw you closer to God, closer to each other and prepare you for an eternity spent with Christ. It is sometimes tough, just as it was for the early Christians Peter was writing to, but it is also important and even vital to our growth as Christians.

One thing to remember is that it is a journey and not a wandering. We may not know where the next day will lead us but God does. In fact He has already given us a map (scripture), a compass (Holy Spirit) and a guide (Jesus Christ) to lead us and direct us. It is up to us, though, to persevere and see this journey through.
“Follow boldly in your Master’s steps, for He has made this rough journey before you. Better a brief warfare and eternal rest than false peace and everlasting torment.” ~ Alistair Begg
When I was in the Marines they emphasized that Marine is a title that must be earned. It is earned through the journey of boot camp and all of the grueling physical and mental challenges it entails. There are many times when that journey seems not worth it or even impossible but for those who persevere the title of Marine - and all the responsibility that goes with it - is waiting.

Our title - Christian - is one that is earned not by us but by Jesus Christ, by His perfect sacrifice and completed work on the Cross. It is one we are graciously given at the moment when we accept Christ’s wonderful free gift of Himself. However that doesn’t make our challenging journey meaningless. While our journey does not earn us our salvation or make us “more Christian” it does transform us. The journey is the method that God uses, through the Holy Spirit working within us, to transform us more into the image of Jesus and prepare us for our eternal home.

It is sometimes tough, and often we make it tougher than it needs to be, but by faithfully walking it we will not only be able to grow ourselves but be able to help others on their journey as well.

To discover more, visit www.http://oakgrovebaptistchurchtn.com/ 

Monday, February 12, 2018

A Life Of Influence

A Life Of Influence

1st Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

I grew up in the buckle of the Bible belt in a Christian family with Christian friends. It was understood that church was where we would be on Sundays and Wednesdays. If I stayed over at a friends house on Saturday night I knew I would be going with their family to church on Sunday morning and vice versa. Once I grew up and began to travel to different places I not only met people with different views and backgrounds than mine, I at times also became a minority.

There’s a book written several years back about the history of Saturday Night Live. Back in the eighties there was a female comedian on the show named Victoria Jackson. You may remember her, she was blonde with a high pitched voice and played the ukulele. In this book they ask the cast members to share their thoughts about their fellow performers. When they asked about Victoria Jackson the quote they picked to describe her was “She’s a born again Christian, she’s like from Mars, [we] never really got her.” (1)

She was a minority among her peers. I’ve been there. I have been the lone Christian in a group before and I've had the quizzical looks, the questions, and occasionally the self-conscious shyness, that go with it. I’ve been asked before “Why are you Christians so weird?” but I would much rather hear that question than hear “You Christians act no different than the rest of us.”

You see it is when we are “weird” or “different” that we have influence. That is when people notice that we’re following something that is opposite from what the world is following and maybe it is something worth following. When the world sees wholehearted commitment from the church to be different from the world then the world notices and wants to learn more. That is influence.

Here Paul tells the church to be steadfast and immovable. In the world today there is always a pull away from our faith. The world wants to desperately change us to look more like them but at the same time they are intrigued by why we do not look like them. If we hold to Paul’s advice and trust God for the outcome then we have the opportunity to influence the world and show them that following God is in fact different, and at times difficult, but it is also so worth it!

Be different!  Be weird!  Live a life of influence!

To discover more, visit www.http://oakgrovebaptistchurchtn.com/ 

References: (1) Live From New York! Location 6031, Tom Shales and James Miller

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Purpose Of Life



The Purpose Of Life


Philippians 3:14 I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. [HCSB]

What is your purpose in life?  Is it merely to survive? Is it to gather things or build a reputation?  What if our life is meant to be more than that?  What if our purpose goes beyond our occupation or family or place?  What if those are merely tools God has given us to accomplish our purpose in life?

Our purpose in life is to glorify God.  To praise and recognize His importance in everything.  No matter what else we may be doing we are to glorify God.  Not because He needs it - we can't add to His glory it is already infinite - but because glorifying God completes us.  It is, after all, what we were created to do.  Every moment of our life is meant to be a living breathing devotion to God and His glory.

Webster’s defines devotion as an act of love, loyalty or enthusiasm. The Apostle Paul was fully devoted to his purpose in life. In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul described his devotion as running for a goal he knew he could not reach in this life - to be more like Christ.  Jesus always glorified His Father through every action He took and every word He spoke.  The goal of Paul's devotion then, and ours today, is to follow Jesus' perfect example in glorifying God.


How we do that is going to be different because God has created each of us to be different. He has given us various gifts and talents, put us in positions to learn various skills so obviously He does not intend all of us to glorify Him the same way. You may have a secular job that you love that is fulfilling - great use it to glorify God. Be a witness, start a bible study or a prayer time. You may stay at home - great check on your neighbors, love your neighborhood, encourage those on your street. Look for any opportunity God gives you to point others to Him and for you to grow closer to Him.

You see, the Christian life is not spent sitting idly waiting for something to happen, it is an active, chasing, running faith - a pursuit! When your mindset becomes one of devotion to Him then you begin to see Him in parts of your life you didn’t realize before.

I love how Warren Wiersbe describes this passage in his commentary: "Many Christians are self-satisfied because they compare their “running” with that of other Christians, usually those who are not making much progress. Had Paul compared himself with others, he would have been tempted to be proud and perhaps to let up a bit. After all, there were not too many believers in Paul’s day who had experienced all that he had or accomplished all that he had! But Paul did not compare himself with others; he compared himself with himself and with Jesus Christ." (1)

One thing I can promise you is that our purpose in life is not to build a name for ourselves. Our purpose has to be more than that because the things we strive for are more than the things of this world. More than money or fame or even respect.  Our purpose goes beyond this life.

How are you doing in your devotion to God in your daily life?  If you are like me you are far from perfect at it.  Remember these wise words from Jeff Iorg:
“Ask yourself: Am I changing to be more like Jesus? Progress, not perfection, is the goal”. - Jeff Iorg
To discover more, visit www.http://oakgrovebaptistchurchtn.com/ 

References: (1) Be Joyful by Warren Wiersbe

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Value of Life


The Value Of Life


Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? [HCSB]

It is amazing, and confounding, how our modern society on one hand says we are our own masters, no one and certainly no god can tell us what to do. While on the other hand saying we are nothing more than animals, a hapless cosmic accident wandering among other accidents. No wonder so many people are anxious and confused!

A recent report on our local NBC affiliate WRCB stated that suicides in the state of Tennessee are at their highest point in 35 years. (1) On average 3 people commit suicide in our state every single day and the suicide rates are increasing in every age bracket and demographic. It doesn't matter if you are rich or poor - money doesn’t prevent it. Doesn’t matter if you are white or black or young or old, or healthy or sick. Race, age and health doesn’t prevent it.

When we lower the value of human life we lower the value of living. Why put up with the hassles of life - the worry, the stress, the anxiety, if our life is not worth more than the lowest animal.

In the past weeks we have seen a mass shooting at a school in Kentucky, numerous murders and assaults - and that's just the stuff that make the news. How many babies were aborted this week? How many young girls sold into sex trafficking? How many children abused and neglected? How many people mistreated because of their skin color or their age? We must realize that being pro life is more than being anti abortion, because our view of life and our understanding of the value of life has consequences far beyond birth. If my life is of no consequence in this world than neither are my actions. If I think my life and your life have no value then what difference does it make how I act or treat others. What does it matter who I hurt, if all of this is meaningless.

We live in a world full of violence and self hatred and all of the worry and stress that comes with it because we deny our role in creation and God’s role in our life.

In Matthew 6 Jesus explains that with God showing such intricate care for even the smallest of creation that we, who are created in God's image, truly have nothing to worry about. His point is not that this world will be easy but that in this world we will not be alone, and our existence is more than this world. But this anxiety He warns against is exactly what happens when we deny God’s providential care for all of Creation and specifically his care for humanity. If we deny the value of human life then this idea will have consequences.

One of these consequences will be taking from us a faith which fights against worry and anxiety. We have everything to worry about and nothing to hope for if we are just a random, cosmic accident, with no worth and no providential care.

But what if Jesus is right? What if we stop and look at Jesus’ words and make the radical leap that He is telling us the truth. That there is a Fatherly God who is not far off and distant but present and active in creation. That this Heavenly Father actually knows you, not just in passing, but in intimate detail, and that He cares for you personally.

Would that mean something to you? What if this same God created you not just to take up space but to have a purpose and that He wants you to succeed in that purpose? Would that give you peace in the midst of a crazy and chaotic world? What if this same God loved you so much that He sent His Son to die for you to pay an infinite price so that you could have life? What value would your life have then?

In verse 33, Jesus tells us to seek first the kingdom of God, why? To keep us busy and blinded and beat down? No! Because that is where we find value, we find meaning, we find purpose - it is in the kingdom of God where we find life itself and life in abundance! The kingdom of God is our home and that is where our life has true value.

To discover more, visit www.http://oakgrovebaptistchurchtn.com/ 

References: (1) http://www.wrcbtv.com/story/37234357/suicides-in-tennessee-reach-record-breaking-high

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Is All Growth Good?

"Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, overflowing with gratitude." Colossians 2:6-7 [HCSB]



Do you ever like to be stopped in your tracks?  I mean to have a surprise come out of something you think you know so well that it catches you off guard and makes you think.  Recently I was reading a sermon by Chris Talton and it made me stop, reread scripture and think about what it truly says and not just what I think it says.  In the sermon he said this:
Growing is not enough. Unproductive uncontrolled growth is cancer. Good growth is growth in the right direction. In order for that to happen, we have to be grounded in Jesus Christ, the only right foundation. [1]
In our culture we push growth for growth's sake.  Is our church growing? Am I growing? We worry about the rate of growth but do we ever stop and worry about the quality of growth?  That short paragraph made me stop and think about how I am growing… and is it healthy.  For example, I can fill my head with all the background facts of Bible passages and the context and cultural understanding  - that is growth.  But if along with that knowledge my heart doesn’t grow to show the love and compassion that lays at the heart of the Bible then my growth is unproductive, uncontrolled, and unspiritual.  Was my growth based on my simple desire to be more like Christ in how I live my life or was it pride in how much more I know today than yesterday?


Was my “growth” hurting my witness?


I went back to one of my favorite passages on growth, Colossians 2, to see what scripture actually said.  Here Paul is addressing false teachings that were becoming popular at Colossae.  He warns his readers to not be taken prisoner by earthly traditions and philosophies - in other words know the sound doctrine of the faith.  That is usually where I focus when I read this passage - knowing the sound doctrine of the faith.  However, before Paul even gets there he says, very simply, for us to be rooted in Christ Himself, to walk with Him… overflowing with gratitude.


That is when it hit me.  My growth should not only be measured by how much doctrine I know (though sound doctrine is important) but by how Christ like I live.  If my growth gets out of whack, if my head knowledge starts to exceed my heart knowledge, then my growth risks becoming dangerous, unspiritual.  I risk becoming someone who spouts out doctrinal truth at people without showing them first the love that is the true reflection of our faith.  


Doctrine without love or grace is a witness to a cold, dead faith built on traditions and rules.  How good is my witness then?  Likewise if I strive to show love to people but I am afraid or ignorant of true doctrine then my witness is merely one of temporary kindness without eternal truth.


My personal growth must be balanced in love and truth.  For our churches to grow, we must be balanced in love and truth.  How are you growing today?

[1] Chris Talton “I Don’t Want To Grow Up!”